7. Plot your daily activities.
When planning your day-to-day experience, return to why you chose your destination. Are you going there to relax or to see as much as possible? Based on that, identify the must-do activities for you and your travel companions. And take note of holiday and seasonal hours and closures.
“I’m an advocate for slow travel, and this has nothing to do with duration. It’s about pace and how quickly you move through an experience,” says Lola Akinmade Åkerström, who owns a multimedia and travel consulting firm based in Stockholm and occasionally travels in the West. “I usually pick a theme when visiting a location and slow down to explore it deeper from that one angle, instead of trying to see everything.”
Even if you have a long list of must-dos, prevent overscheduling yourself by adding in free time or full days with nothing on the agenda. Leave space for power naps, unexpected discoveries, and spur-of-the-moment detours.
Schebor suggests mapping out your activities on a calendar. Group nearby things together, make note of mandatory versus optional activities, and build in wiggle room for meals and spontaneity. “It just gives you a visual,” she says. “Then you can move things around into a better order.” She also advises waiting to book short tours until you arrive. That way, you have a better idea of weather and your energy, and won’t lose money on something you don’t end up doing.
Keep a list of backup plans and other activities and restaurants. “I'm usually a go-with-the-flow person, so when the weather turns, I'll probably duck into museums or shopping centers, or find some cozy cafe to people-watch and write,” says Akinmade Åkerström.
Smart tip: Get discounts on theme park passes, attractions, car rentals, hotel stays, and more with your AAA card.
8. Buy travel insurance.
Just like your car and home policies, travel insurance safeguards you from the unexpected—and it can be really affordable. Plans through Allianz, AAA’s preferred partner, start at around $23. Yet the cost is often the reason people skip it, says Dona Ortega, senior associate product marketer at AAA Arizona.
The best time to buy travel insurance varies. Some plans—such as those that cover pre-existing conditions—require you to purchase them within a period of time from booking. Others can be picked up anytime before the start of your trip. “You have more plan options available when you purchase travel insurance near or at the time of booking,” says Ortega.
Most policies cover trip delays, interruptions, and cancellations due to medical emergencies and natural disasters, as well as medical expenses and lost luggage. Ortega recommends travel insurance whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally. “Travel insurance is there to protect your vacation against the unexpected,” she says.